COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland junior defensive tackle Darren Drozdov had just entered the football building when he was asked about the team's new defense.
"We'll play with a four-man front, sometimes a five-man front," said Drozdov. "We'll have two defensive tackles, two ends and ** two nose guards. Wait a minute? Is that right? Oh, we're still trying to figure this thing out."
Defensive ends coach Peter McCarty, who came with new head coach Mark Duffner from Holy Cross in late December, also is having problems. He has 11 candidates for one position, and he can't remember all their names yet.
But by September, when Maryland opens its season, this team must rebuild a defensive line that lost three starting seniors. Other than choosing a quarterback, it's the most pressing need for the team to fill in spring practice. There are only five practices left.
"I think we'll be all right," said Drozdov, the team radical. He is sporting a haircut more subdued than in the past, a flattop with the sides of his head shaved (Duffner has banned more creative haircuts).
"This new defense fits our people better because we're not real big, but we're pretty quick," Drozdov said. "It relies on speed."
Last year, Maryland ran a 5-2 base defense, and on occasions, used variations of a 4-3. But both defenses were read-and-react, and the Terrapins rarely blitzed linebackers or stunted on the line. When Maryland shot gaps, it was more to fill space than to penetrate and make big plays.
The result: Maryland allowed 421 yards of offense per game, worst in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Duffner has promised a change. He plans to use four down linemen, but to keep the opposition off guard by sometimes using three or five. He also will create a "roverback" position -- a combination of linebacker and defensive back.
The Terrapins promise to blitz. And stunt. And always try to keep the opposition guessing.
"We're going to go after it," Duffner said. "We're going to change the way our players think in the spring. We want them to be confident and aggressive. That's as important as any new defensive schemes. The key words are effort, intensity and attack."
The players seem to like the strategy.
"This is a nice approach," said Darren Colvin (Aberdeen), an outside linebacker who has been moved to the down defensive end position. "This cuts down on the thinking and you rely more on getting off the ball. Last year, we had a whole lot of reads."
Freshman defensive end Rudy Smith said: "I think we're going to be able to put a lot more pressure on the quarterback this season. A lot of us played this style in high school. The coaches don't care how you get there, you just get there."
Maryland's defensive personnel pool is not as shallow as some might think. Sophomore Mark Sturdivant is back at outside linebacker. He was third on the team in tackles with 78 last season.
Drozdov, 6 feet 3 and 280 pounds, had 47 tackles a year ago as a backup and played as well as starter Lubo Zizakovic. Sophomore defensive lineman Jim Panagos (6-2, 252) played as well as any of the linemen in the second half of last season, finishing with 22 tackles. Redshirt freshman Jamie Bragg (6-1, 254, Severna Park), also could be in the hunt for a starting job.
Other candidates for starters on defense include freshman Rudy Smith (6-4, 225) and sophomore Joe Bergstrom (6-3, 251), as well as Dave DeBruin, Rich Phoenix and Madison Bradley. The last three were moved from the offensive line.
"As a group, they are doing a real good job of grasping and being patient, but at the same time having a hunger for more," said McCarty. "But we're just breaking the ice as far as things are concerned."